Tag Archives: Jared Goff

2017 NFC West Projections

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X-Seattle Seahawks 11-5

Six of the last seven years have seen the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs, but after they lost the Super Bowl in February 2015, they’ve lacked the ability to be recognized as a strong Super Bowl contender. Since Seattle won the Super Bowl in February 2014, age, injuries, free agency, and the salary cap crunch have caught up to them. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have stuck to their guns which has seen them focus on drafting in the hopes of maintaining depth at each position. And as some players have been harder to replace than others, it has shown up in key regular season losses for Seattle as well as when they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the last two years. But as a new season is set to begin in the National Football League, will the Seahawks be able to put all of that behind them and make another push at winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy?

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback for the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl, but the heart and soul on offense for that championship team was running back Marshawn Lynch. Last year saw Lynch retire from the National Football League and in the process the Seahawks running game suffered. In 2016, the Seahawks were 25th in the NFL in rushing with their leading rusher being Christine Michael with only 469 yards.

In the off-season the Seahawks signed former Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy in the hopes of giving their stagnant running game a boost. Lacy had a strong start to his National Football League career in 2013 with the Packers. That season saw Lacy gain 1,178 yards on the ground and in the process he was named as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. However weight issues have hampered Lacy ever since which led to him falling out of favor in Green Bay. But I do expect Lacy to have an impact with Seattle this year due to the fact that he has incentives in his contract to keep his weight down.

And a solid season be Lacy should benefit Wilson. In five years as the Seahawks starting quarterback, Wilson’s career record is 56-23-1. Wilson’s passing yardage has increased in each season, however when he has a big passing game the Seahawks generally lose. The Seahawks offense is predicated on balance and as good of a winner the Wilson is, he cannot carry the offense by his lonesome.

Doug Baldwin

Surprisingly the Seahawks traded veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse this off-season, but Wilson still has his “BFF” in wide receiver Doug Baldwin while after tight end Jimmy Graham dealt with injuries as well as trying to figure things out in Seattle in 2015 was able to bounce back last year for one of the most productive seasons of his career. And although that Graham is set to become 31-years of age in November, he can still get it down for the Seahawks; especially in the red zone.

Last year the Seahawks were fifth in the National Football League in total defense and this unit is at its best when all 11 players are flying around the football. For the longest time Seattle has had a stout defensive line with pass rushers such as Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and Michael Bennett set to have an impact this season. But the rich got richer when the Seahawks were able to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets this summer.

Richardson was able to burst onto the scene with the Jets in 2013 as he was named as the National Football League’s Rookie of the Year, while making the Pro Bowl in 2014. The best way to describe Richardson is that he is a disruptor on the defensive line and when he is on top of his game, he is one of the top defensive tackles in the game. However the downside is that Richardson can take plays off and lose focus. But if there is an organization that can bring out the best in Richardson, it would be the Seahawks.

Bobby Wagner

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the National Football League in tackles last year with 167, while outside linebacker K.J. Wright is one of the most underrated players at his position. The Seahawks secondary is still home to some of the top alpha males in the NFL in cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, and strong safety Kam Chancellor. Thomas is looking to bounce back after he suffered a broken leg last year and the Seahawks secondary simply wasn’t the same without him. But overall this unit could be ready to once again be dominant this season.

In 2015, Blair Walsh was one of the most accurate kickers in the National Football League as he connected on more than 87% of his kicks as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. But Walsh will only be remembered for missing a 27-yard field goal in the closing seconds of a wild card loss to the Seahawks. Walsh would have a hard time getting over the miss which led to the Vikings releasing him last year. However Walsh has now been presented with the chance to get back on track as a member of the Seahawks, and whereas Carroll has been known to coach his guys up, Walsh could be ready to bounce back in a big way this season.

The beginning and the end of the Seahawks schedule will be the toughest portion as they’ll open on the road against the Packers, while they will finish up with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals. But when it is all said and done, Seattle should be in line to claim another NFC West Title.

Arizona Cardinals 10-6

At the start of the 2016 National Football League season, the expectations were high for the Arizona Cardinals. The previous season had seen the Cardinals reach the NFC Championship Game for just the second time in franchise history. However the Cardinals would be up and down last season which began in their first game when they lost at home to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the New England Patriots who didn’t have the services of quarterback Tom Brady. And as the Cards finished with a record of 7-8-1, they have still failed to make the postseason in three consecutive years. But as the Cards finished 2016 by winning their final two games which included knocking off the Seattle Seahawks on the road for the second consecutive year, maybe they can carry that momentum over into the new season.

Bruce Arians

Since Bruce Arians has been the head coach of the Cardinals, he has relied on Carson Palmer to be his starting quarterback. Palmer is entering his 13th years in the National Football League and as he is set to be 38-years of age in December, it will paramount for Arizona’s offensive line to keep him protected due to the fact that he is not that mobile.

Palmer isn’t the only veteran who is a key component to the Cardinals. The last 13 years have seen wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald morph into one of the best pass catchers that the National Football League has ever seen. And the age of 34, Fitzgerald isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions last season with 107, while he still commands a double team.

But the Cardinals cannot solely rely on Fitzgerald in their passing game which means that wide receiver John Brown needs to have a bounce back season. After Brown gained 1,003 receiving yards in 2015, he struggled at times last year and in the process he fell out of favor with Arians as he was only able to tally 517 yards.

David Johnson

Very rapidly running back David Johnson has emerged as one of the better all-purpose backs in the National Football League and his 1,239 rushing yards were seventh in the league last season. But what set Johnson apart was his ability at the goal line as he had 16 touchdowns on the ground. And if the Cardinals are able to get some consistency from their wide receivers who are not named Fitzgerald, Johnson could be even more dangerous with defenses being unable to solely focus on him.

For Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, it is all about “organized chaos” with his unit. The Cards defense is all about putting as much pressure as possible on opposing offenses and it also good that the players in Arizona can rely on some former National Football League players as assistant coaches. Kevin Ross played in the NFL for 14 years and now he serves as the Cardinals defensive backs coach. Larry Foote spent 13 years in the NFL which included winning a pair of Super Bowl Championships as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and now he serves as Arizona’s inside linebackers coach. Brenston Buckner spent 12 years in the NFL as a defensive tackle and now he is coaching the defensive line for Arizona.

But even with all of that experience on the sidelines, it is the Cardinals players who have to go out on the field and make it happen, however they have the people to do so. Defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and Frostee Rucker can provide pressure up front, while the Cardinals could have one of the best linebacking cores in the National Football League. Outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden have become one of the bookend pass rushing tandems in the NFL which should compliment rookie inside linebacker Haason Reddick and Karlos Dansby who is set to begin his third stint with the club.

The Cardinals secondary is home to a wealth of play makers as well. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the best in the business in regards to one-on-one coverage, while free safety Tyrann Mathieu has rapidly developed into arguably the top all-around safety in the National Football League due to his ability to play both the run and the pass. The Cards have depth in their secondary which includes strong safety Tyvon Branch and cornerback Tramon Williams. And this depth has allowed the Cardinals to play Deone Bucannon at linebacker as opposed to his natural position of safety.

Special teams were an issue last year for Arizona as well, but the acquisition of kicker Phil Dawson should remedy that being that he is one of the most accurate kickers in National Football League history. And it will also help the veteran kicker in Dawson that all of Arizona’s home games will be played indoors.

Only one of Arizona’s first nine games will be played against a team that made the playoffs last season. And a fast start for Arians and his team could be just what they need to make it back to the postseason.

Los Angeles Rams 6-10

The 2016 National Football League season saw the Rams return to the City of Los Angeles for the first time since 1994. And although that the Rams were initially welcomed with excitement for their return to Southern California, it waned rather quickly. The Rams went 4-12 last year for their tenth consecutive losing season. In the process the Rams went through two different head coaches as Jeff Fisher was fired after the team’s 4-9 start. The Rams finished with the fifth worst record in the National Football League, but they didn’t have a first-round pick to show for their inefficiency due to a trade in 2016 with the Tennessee Titans. 31-year old Sean McVay has been hired to be the Rams new head coach. And as critics will attempt to use McVay’s age against him, will he be the guy to get things turned around in Los Angeles?

McVay was given the Rams job on the premise that he would be able to develop quarterback Jared Goff into a quality National Football League quarterback. The Rams used the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft on Goff and in the process they mortgaged the future by giving up multiple first-round picks in order to obtain him.

Jared Goff

Last year Goff began his National Football League career by watching from the sidelines. Goff would go on to start seven games for the Rams, but he was never able to lead them to a victory. As expected Goff struggled as he only completed 54.6% of his passes, while throwing 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Overall the Rams offense was last in the NFL in total offense, but the entire blame cannot be placed on Goff.

After being the National Football League’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, running back Todd Gurley regressed last season. Gurley only gained 885 yards on the ground last season as he wilted in the Hollywood spotlight. But if the Rams want to have any success on offense this year, Gurley will need to run like he did when the team still called St. Louis home.

Sammy Watkins

The Rams passing game should receive a boost this year as the team acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins from the Buffalo Bills. After the Bills moved up in the first round of the 2014 National Football League Draft to select Watkins, he was never able to live up to the hype as he has constantly been injured. And it hasn’t helped Watkins that wide receivers who were selected after him such as New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are consistently Pro Bowlers. But now Watkins has the opportunity to wipe the slate clean with the Rams as he needs to get on the same page with the young Goff.

Defensively the Rams were ninth in the National Football League in total defense last year, but at times they were a very undisciplined bunch. The Rams were the fifth most penalized team in the NFL last year with the defense accounting for their fair share. The Rams have talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but they’ve simply been unable to make it all come together consistently.

Aaron Donald

It has not taken defensive tackle Aaron Donald that long to become one of the best players at his position in the National Football League. In just three years Donald has tallied 28 sacks which is an incredible number for a player who spends the majority of his time on the interior of the defensive line. This off-season has seen Donald attempt to be compensated like one of the top players in the league, but to no avail. And as Donald and the Rams have been unable to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, he sat out for the entire off-season which has cast some doubt over his availability for the regular season.

The Rams defense will look different without Donald on defense, but they still have a strong group of linebackers which includes outside linebacker Robert Quinn, along with inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron. Quinn has spent his entire National Football League career as a defensive end, but with Wade Phillips taking over as the Rams defensive coordinator, Quinn’s role has changed. Phillips is a proponent of the 3-4 defense as opposed to the 4-3 as it is all about supplying as much pressure as possible on opposing offenses. However Phillips knows how to get results with his defenses which included his most recent stint as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos which led to a Super Bowl Championship to culminate the 2015 National Football League season.

The Rams are going to need some luck in order to be a playoff team in 2017, and they’ll have to take advantage of the early portion of their schedule which will see them host the Indianapolis Colts who won’t have the services of quarterback Andrew Luck, and the Dallas Cowboys who won’t have running back Ezekiel Elliot.

San Francisco 49ers 1-15

It’s hard to believe, but it was less than five years ago that the San Francisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl and they were one play away from winning it all. Since then the championship caliber team that had been built by former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has been rapidly destroyed with only three players who were on San Francisco’s roster during their Super Bowl run currently still there. And after San Francisco has only been able to win a combined seven games over the last two years, Niners owner Jed York has decided to push the reset button and start over as he has welcomed in a new general manager and head coach to his organization.

York hired John Lynch to be San Francisco’s new general manager. Lynch doesn’t have any prior front office experience in the National Football League, but most notably he was a standout free safety for 15 years which included appearing in nine Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl Title as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch gave up a cushy job as a color analyst for FOX Sports to join the 49ers, but as he brings the same passion and intensity that he played with to the front office, things could be turned around in San Francisco sooner rather than later.

Lynch’s first order of business was to hire Kyle Shanahan as the 21st head coach in 49ers franchise history. Shanahan learned the ins and outs of the coaching profession from his father Mike who won a pair of Super Bowl Championships as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. The younger Shanahan has been the offensive coordinator for several teams in the National Football League with his most recent stint being with the Atlanta Falcons.

However Shanahan’s stint with the 49ers will begin under a cloud of controversy as his last game with the Falcons was Super Bowl 51 where his offense could not maintain a 28-3 lead versus the New England Patriots. And now Shanahan must redeem himself as he looks to make San Francisco a contender.

It’s tough to get overly excited for the Niners this season once you look at their quarterbacking situation. The two quarterbacks who are currently on the 49ers roster are veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie C.J. Beathard. In eight years in the National Football League, Hoyer has a career record of 16-15 with a completion percentage of 59.5%, while Beathard has never attempted a pass in the league.

Overall San Francisco is lacking play makers on the offensive side of the football. Each of the last two years have seen the Niners fail to produce a 1,000-yard running back, while the only bright spot for the offense is left tackle Joe Staley who is a five-time Pro Bowler.

With Lynch leading the way, he is going to attempt to rebuild the defense; more than likely in the variation of the Cover 2 defense that he is most familiar with which is the “Tampa 2”. The strength of the Cover 2 is right up the middle of the defense which is currently a huge weakness for the Niners. And as San Francisco was dead last in the National Football League last year in total defense which included surrendering at least 35 points in a contest five times, there still isn’t that much to get that excited about in regards to this group.

The only two victories that the 49ers were able to attain last year were over the Los Angeles Rams. And as this year appears to be a throw away for the Niners, victories will once again be few and far between.

X-Division Winner

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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Don’t Get Excited

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When the Los Angeles Rams decided to return to Southern California after spending the last 21 years in St. Louis, Missouri, they knew that the spotlight would once again be on them as they were heading back to the second largest media market in the United States. Upon returning to Los Angeles, the Rams were greeted with a hero’s welcome which included seeing more than 90,000 in attendance for their first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. But optimism quickly turned to skepticism for the Rams as they were embarrassed in their first game of the regular season. The Rams would lose to the San Francisco 49ers 28-0 which has been the only victory for the Niners here in 2016. The Rams would go on to win their next three games, but since then they are only 1-9.

Jeff Fisher

The Rams abysmal overall record of 4-10 this year culminated in head coach Jeff Fisher being fired this past Monday as the team’s COO Kevin Demoff deemed it as an “organizational failure”. Rams special teams coach John Fassel will be the team’s interim head coach for their final three games as he appears to be stop-gap guy. I’m sure that the Rams will want to go out and get a big named head coach to lead this squad in order to maintain fan interest while also selling tickets. But whomever that the Rams hire as their head coach in 2017 will be fighting an uphill battle.

Jared Goff

Whoever becomes the Rams head coach for next season knows that he’ll have to inherit quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams made Goff the first overall pick of the 2016 National Football League Draft, and they paid a very steep price in order to do it. The Rams entered the draft possessing the 15th overall selection, but they would make a trade with the Tennessee Titans in order to select Goff. In all the Rams gave up five draft picks which includes their first pick in 2017 which will more than likely be in the top ten. In five starts for the Rams, Goff has completed 54.7% of his passes while he has thrown 4 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions. And to make matters worse, nothing about Goff’s game has stood out so far which can’t give fans in Los Angeles that much optimism going forward. But since the Rams paid such a steep price for Goff, he’ll have to be their guy in 2017.

And Goff isn’t the only question mark on the Rams roster as this is an organization that failed to consistently draft well for a very long time. In 2012, the roles were reversed as the Rams owned the second overall pick in the National Football League Draft, but the Washington Redskins were desperate to move up to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. Through several trades the Rams would go on to select eight players. However none of those players have turned into game changers for the Rams with cornerback Janoris Jenkins now with the New York Giants, while guard Rokevious Watkins, along with running backs Zac Stacy and Isaiah Pead are out of football altogether. The Rams had a golden opportunity in 2012 to build the core of a championship team, but they instead let the chance pass them by as they are now paying for it.

The Rams entered Week 15 last in the National Football League in total offense, and 10th in total defense. The Rams issues on offense have been on display since their first game of the season as they’ve been held to under 20 points nine time, and they’ve only gotten worse under Goff as getting a first down is a reason to celebrate.

The Rams have also lacked on-the-field leadership which is evident by their 112 accepted penalties against them this season which is second in the National Football League only to the 122 of the Oakland Raiders. Under Fisher, the Rams always played an undisciplined brand of football as you could always count on them to have several personal foul penalties per each contest which would typically hurt them in the final outcome of the game.

And all of these issues for the Rams flew under the radar when they were in St. Louis, but that is not going to fly in Los Angeles where people want results. Rams owner Stan Kroenke sold the people of Los Angeles on the illusion of once again having professional there, but he needs a team that is going to make people want to spend money in order to see them.

These Rams resemble the team that left Los Angeles in 1994 as they were an organization that lacked a plan and they still do. Kroenke has been good at making money, but not at producing a winner which is evident by the Rams record under his ownership. And the same be said about two teams that Kroenke formerly owned which are the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, and the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche.

By name the Rams are back in Los Angeles, but they are no closer to being a winner now than they were for their last decade in St. Louis. And it’s going to be tough to find a head coach that can turn things around for the Rams as they have question marks at every position; including general manager and owner.

But the Rams must get tougher and find a way to compete which is something that they didn’t do in their last three games under Fisher which forced Kroenke to fire him. Special teams coach John Fassel has been named as the Rams interim head coach for the final three games, and things haven’t improved as Los Angeles lost 24-3 this past Thursday night to the Seattle Seahawks. And in two games against the Seahawks this year, Los Angeles failed to score a touchdown, while it has happened four times overall.

It won’t get any better anytime soon for the Rams until they decide that they want to be something more than merely an afterthought.

 

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Not In Missouri Anymore

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This past Monday marked the first time in 21 years that a National Football League franchise played a regular season game representing the City of Los Angeles as the Rams returned to Southern California. The Rams left Anaheim on March 15, 1995 in favor of St. Louis, Missouri. But after things were unraveling financially in St. Louis, they returned West. The Rams were given a hero’s welcomed when they returned to Los Angeles. And as L.A. is the second largest media market in the United States, the Rams immediately were once again thrust under the microscope.

The Rams began the 2016 National Football League with optimism and you really couldn’t blame them as they are in a new city, with a new fan base, and a new stadium on the way. The Rams are also in the process of developing their newest franchise quarterback in Jared Goff who was the first overall pick of this year’s NFL Draft. But when the Rams began play this past Monday night, they were shutout by the San Francisco 49ers 28-0.

In the game the Rams were thoroughly dominated by the 49ers in every facet of the game. The Rams only managed 185 total yards of offense, while they were 3-of-15 on third down conversions. The Rams also had 10 penalties for 102 yards which in itself is a recipe for disaster. And the architect for this futility was none other than Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

21 of the last 22 years have seen Fisher as a head coach in the National Football League. Fisher’s time as an NFL head coach began in 1994 when he replaced Jack Pardee as the head coach of the Houston Oilers midway through the regular season. Fisher would stay with the Oilers franchise for 17 years which included the organization’s move to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997 as they would go on to be named the Titans. The highlight of Fisher’s tenure with the Titans came during the 1999 NFL season when he led Tennessee to their first and only AFC Championship in franchise history. In 17 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise, Fisher only had six playoff appearances as he compiled a record of 142-120.

Jeff Fisher

Fisher would become the head coach of the Rams in 2012 and including Monday night’s loss to San Francisco, his record with the team is 27-37-1. Fisher has never posted a winning record with the Rams and he has been a polarizing figure in the National Football League for the simple fact that no head coach has done less than he has, but still manages to maintain his position. However Fisher now finds himself in a city that unlike Houston, Nashville, and St. Louis will want positive results immediately.

In losing to the 49ers, the Rams were outclassed and out coached, along with any other adjective that you could think of to describe their futility. The Rams issues started at the quarterback position where veteran Case Keenum got the nod. In the game Keemum was 17-of-35 passing for 130 yards while he was also sacked twice. Keenum finished the game with a quarterback rating of 34.2. Keenum is obviously not the Rams long-term option at quarterback as in five National Football League seasons, he has only started 16 games, while throwing 15 touchdowns passes to 11 interceptions. And when it became evident on Monday night that the Rams weren’t going to be victorious, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Goff to get a few reps as a quarterback, but Fisher made him inactive prior to the start of the game.

Fisher is coaching as if he is going to be the head coach of the Rams for a long time as there doesn’t appear to be a sense of urgency on his part, but he is now in a city that is all about “what have you done for me lately”. The Rams also gave up five draft picks to obtain the first overall slot from the Titans in order to draft Goff, and although that I am in favor of having a slow process as far as developing young quarterbacks, Goff is the best signal caller that is currently on the Rams roster.

Jared Goff

More fuel was added to the fire about the Rams quarterback play when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who was immediately selected after Goff dazzled this past Sunday as he went 22-of-37 for 278 passing yards and had a pair of touchdowns in the 29-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Wentz is the Eagles best option at quarterback and he was on full display.

But overall as a team the Rams must play better as there is now a ton of pressure on them that they never had to deal with while they called St. Louis home. The Rams are set to host the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday and more than 90,000 people are expected to be in attendance at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first National Football League regular season game there since 1994. And for the Rams it will be their first home game at the venue since 1979. The Seahawks have been a perennial contender in the NFL during this decade and although that the Rams have been physical against them under Fisher, they need to get a victory over Seattle as a loss would not only make Los Angeles 0-2, but also 0-2 within the NFC West.

This is the time when leaders must step to the forefront, but the Rams parted with two of their leaders in the off-season when they released defensive end Chris Long who went on to sign with the New England Patriots, and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis who is now with the New Orleans Saints. And with the likes of defensive end Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the Rams will still be able to produce a physical brand of football. But physical football alone won’t be enough as they must find a way to win football games as they must find a way to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after they allowed 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert to do whatever he wanted to on Monday night.

Fisher has not participated in the playoffs since 2008, and the Rams are the only team in the NFC West to not win the division since 2003. The Rams have talked a big game, but it is put-up, or shut-up time for this team as unlike in St. Louis, they cannot simply get lost in the shuffle in Hollywood.

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2016 NFC West Draft Grades

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Arizona Cardinals

Grade: B-

First Round Pick: Robert Nkemdiche-Defensive Tackle-Ole Miss

Best Pick: Robert Nkemdiche

There has been a definite culture change for the Arizona Cardinals in their three years under head coach Bruce Arians as they now find themselves among the elite teams in the National Football League. After making the NFC Championship Game last season, the Cardinals found themselves picking near the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. And there Arians would take a chance on Mississippi Rebels defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

Robert Nkemdiche

Nkemdiche had the talent to be selected in the top five of the National Football League Draft, but off-the-field issues saw him slide. It appeared that Nkemdiche would fall out of the first round completely until Arians took a chance on him. Arizona should be a solid fit for Nkemdiche as there is leadership in the locker room and he will be held accountable for his actions.

Aside from Nkemdiche, the Cards were able to add depth in the secondary with their second round selection of Texas A&M Aggies cornerback Brandon Williams and in the sixth round with cornerback Harlan Miller from the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. But Arians and the Cardinals did miss an opportunity to draft a quarterback to groom behind Carson Palmer who is 36-years of age along with having a history of injuries. Instead the Cardinals decided to bring in Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback as an undrafted free agent, but it will be interesting to see if he’ll impress enough to make the roster.

Seattle Seahawks

Grade: A

First Round Pick: Germain Ifedi-Offensive Tackle-Texas A&M

Best Pick: Round Two-Jarran Reed-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

Since Pete Carroll became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, this has been an organization that has made a habit of nailing it at the National Football League Draft which is why they have five playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance over that stretch.

The Seahawks really got busy at the 2016 National Football League Draft. In the first round, Seattle traded down five slots and still managed to draft Texas A&M Aggies offensive tackle Germain Ifedi. In Ifedi, the Seahawks get a versatile player that can play multiple positions on the offensive line, but he’ll most likely fill the void at left tackle after Russell Okung left to join the Broncos.

Jarran Reed

Seattle really lucked out near the end of the second round where they selected Alabama Crimson Tide defensive tackle Jarran Reed. In some of my mock drafts, I had the Seahawks selecting Reed in the first round, and he still managed to be available that late in the draft process for them which was a huge coup for them.

The running back position in the National Football League is a spot where teams always need depth. And whereas the Seahawks must fill the void of running back Marshawn Lynch who retired, they stocked up on ball carriers with Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise in the third round and Arkansas Razorbacks Alex Collins in the sixth round. Prosise and Collins will provide the Seahawks with depth and speed. But for Collins he comes to the NFL with a ton of carries under his belt at Arkansas and you just wonder if that will wear on him in Seattle.

Los Angeles Rams

Grade: C

First Round Pick: Jared Goff-Quarterback-California

Best Pick: Jared Goff

Jared Goff

It wasn’t a big secret that the Los Angeles Rams were going to use the first overall pick of the National Football League Draft on a quarterback; it was just a matter of which one. Heading up to the start of the draft, the Rams were able to keep one of the biggest secrets in sports to themselves, but they ultimately decided on California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff. At 6’4″, 215lbs., Goff has the prototypical height for the position, but he will need to bulk up to deal with the potential hits. Goff didn’t come from a pro-style offense at California which means that there will be a learning curve. However with all that the Rams gave up to get Goff, he will probably be thrown to the wolves too early.

Due to the fact that the Rams moved up 14 spots to take Goff, they had to part with several draft picks which robbed them of the chance to add depth. And hopefully for the Rams and Goff, we’ll see them have a successful marriage in Hollywood.

San Francisco 49ers

Grade: C-

First Round Pick: DeForest Buckner-Defensive End-Oregon, Joshua Garnett-Guard-Stanford

Best Pick: DeForest BucknerĀ 

This off-season has not been a good one for the San Francisco 49ers. First, the 49ers hired a head coach in Chip Kelly who had just been fired by the Philadelphia Eagles after he lost the locker room there. And secondly, the Niners have been unable to trade a disgruntled quarterback in Colin Kaepernick.

After the Niners failed to complete a deal to send Kaepernick packing, they passed up on quarterbacks in the National Football League Draft until the sixth round when they selected Louisiana Tech Bulldogs quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel is a mobile signal caller that will fit into Kelly’s system. However there are a ton of questions around his ability to lead and execute an offense.

After San Francisco used their first-round pick on Oregon Ducks defensive end DeForest Buckner, they surprisingly traded back into the first to select Stanford Cardinal guard Joshua Garnett who they could have gotten much later in the draft process.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, these past few months are a clear example that the 2016 National Football League season is going to be a very long one for them.

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2016 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

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Carson Wentz

1. Los Angeles Rams-Jared Goff-Quarterback-California

This is a make or break pick for Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

2. Philadelphia Eagles-Carson Wentz-Quarterback-Nortk Dakota State

Regardless of who the Philadelphia Eagles select here, the fans in Philly will boo the choice.

3. San Diego Chargers-Laremy Tunsil-Offensive Tackle-Ole Miss

Here the San Diego Chargers will find a player than can anchor their offensive line for the next decade.

 

4. Dallas Cowboys-Joey Bosa-Defensive End-Ohio State

The Dallas Cowboys could go in several directions here, but they need to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars-Jalen Ramsey-Free Safety-Florida State

Jalen Ramsey will be a starter from his first day in Jacksonville and his playmaking ability will put fear into opposing offenses.

6. Baltimore Ravens-Ronnie Stanley-Offensive Tackle-Notre Dame

With quarterback Joe Flacco returning from a knee injury, the Baltimore Ravens must protect him up front.

Laquon Treadwell

7. San Francisco 49ers-Laquon Treadwell-Wide Receiver-Ole Miss

San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly loves speed, and he’ll get a wealth of it here with Laquon Treadwell.

8. Cleveland Browns-Ezekiel Elliot-Running Back-Ohio State

The Cleveland Browns could have one of the fastest backfield tandems in the National Football League with Ezekiel Elliot and quarterback Robert Griffin III.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Jack Conklin-Offensive Tackle-Michigan State

Last year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found their franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, and now they’ll find a left tackle that will protect his blindside.

Leonard Floyd

10. New York Giants-Leonard Floyd-Outside Linebacker-Georgia

It will come down to Shaq Lawson or Leonard Floyd here for the New York Giants. But right now Floyd is trending upwards.

11. Chicago Bears-Taylor Decker-Offensive Tackle-Ohio State

Jay Cutler is still the guy for the Chicago Bears at quarterback. And being that Cutler loves to throw the deep ball, Chicago must provide protection for him.

Vernon Hargreaves III

12. New Orleans Saints-Vernon Hargreaves III-Cornerback-Florida

Last year saw the New Orleans Saints secondary cooked by opposing offenses which makes the selection of Vernon Hargreaves III here a no-brainer.

13. Miami Dolphins-Eli Apple-Cornerback-Ohio State

The Miami Dolphins will get a cornerback in Eli Apple that isn’t afraid to play press coverage as he’ll bring some swagger to South Florida.

14. Oakland Raiders-Reggie Ragland-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

Very quietly the Oakland Raiders could have one of the best linebacker units in the National Football League.

15. Tennessee Titans-DeForest Bucker-Defensive End-Oregon

The Tennessee Titans could go with Shaq Lawson here, but DeForest Buckner possesses a little more versatility.

16. Detroit Lions-A’Shawn Robinson-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

The Detroit Lions need help in the trenches on both sides of the football, and A’Shawn Robinson is too talented to pass up on.

17. Atlanta Falcons-Sheldon Rankins-Defensive Tackle-Louisville

Brick by brick the Atlanta Falcons are building a solid defensive line.

18. Indianapolis Colts-Shaq Lawson-Defensive End-Clemson

Plain and simple the Indianapolis Colts need younger and more athletic players that can rush the quarterback.

Myles Jack

19. Buffalo Bills-Myles Jack-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

Myles Jack has top five talent, but concerns about his knee will see him fall in the draft.

20. New York Jets-Noah Spence-Defensive End-Eastern Kentucky

The New York Jets could go with quarterback Paxton Lynch here, but Noah Spence gives them another versatile edge rusher.

21. Washington Redskins-Corey Coleman-Wide Receiver-Baylor

The Washington Redskins have made it known that Kirk Cousins is their guy at quarterback which means that they need to give him more options at quarterback to get the football to.

22. Houston Texans-Jason Spirggs-Offensive Tackle-Indiana

The Houston Texans found their franchise quarterback in free agency when they signed Brock Osweiler; now it is time to protect him.

23. Minnesota Vikings-Will Fuller-Wide Receiver-Notre Dame

Speed is the name of the game in the National Football League, and wide receiver Will Fuller has a wealth of it.

24. Cincinnati Bengals-Keanu Neal-Strong Safety-Florida

The Cincinnati Bengals enter the National Football League Draft with needs on the defensive line and secondary and Keanu Neal fills one of those voids.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers-William Jackson III-Cornerback-Houston

The Pittsburgh Steelers need help on their defensive line, but they also need a cornerback to compliment William Gay.

26. Seattle Seahawks-Jarran Reed-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

The last two years have seen the Seattle Seahawks decimated in the trenches through free agency and trades as the rebuild begins here with Jarran Reed.

Vernon Butler

27. Green Bay Packers-Vernon Butler-Defensive Tackle-Louisiana Tech

With the surprising retirement of defensive tackle B.J. Raji, the Green Bay Packers need to find a new nose tackle that can plug up the middle.

28. Kansas City Chiefs-Josh Docston-Wide Receiver-TCU

During the Kansas City Chiefs playoff loss to the New England Patriots, their lack of production at the wide receiver position finally caught up to them.

Mackensie Alexander

29. Arizona Cardinals-Mackensie Alexander-Cornerback-Clemson

The Arizona Cardinals already have one of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League in Patrick Peterson, and the youngster Mackensie Alexander could learn from one of the best in the business.

30. Carolina Panthers-Germain Ifedi-Offensive Tackle-Texas A&M

The Carolina Panthers need more play makers at the wide receiver position, but they also need to provide more protection for quarterback Cam Newton.

31. Denver Broncos-Derrick Henry-Running Back-Alabama

The Denver Broncos could go quarterback here, but the talent of Derrick Henry is too good to pass on.

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2016 NFL Draft 2.0

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Carson Wentz

1. Los Angeles Rams-Carson Wentz-Quarterback-North Dakota State

The future of Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is riding on this pick.

2. Cleveland Browns-Jared Goff-Quarterback-California

Although that the Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Robert Griffin III, it won’t prevent them from drafting another quarterback.

3. San Diego Chargers-Laremy Tunsil-Offensive Tackle-Ole Miss

Heading into the 2016 National Football League Draft, Laremy Tunsil is looked at as the best prospect available for most people, and the San Diego Chargers will get themselves a player that can anchor their offensive line for years to come.

4. Dallas Cowboys-Joey Bosa-Defensive End-Ohio State

If the Browns pass on Jared Goff, I expect the Dallas Cowboys to select him. But if Goff is gone, expect the Cowboys to beef up their pass rush.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars-Jalen Ramsey-Free Safety-Florida State

For years the Jacksonville Jaguars have been lacking a play maker in their secondary, and they will get one here in Jalen Ramsey.

6. Baltimore Ravens-Ronnie Stanley-Offensive Tackle-Notre Dame

The Baltimore Ravens might be tempted to trade up for Joey Bosa, but they must also protect the blindside of quarterback Joe Flacco who is coming off of knee surgery.

Myles Jack

7. San Francisco 49ers-Myles Jack-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

It wouldn’t be San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly if he didn’t think outside of the box as he would be taking a player here with red flags due to medical issues.

8. Philadelphia Eagles-Paxton Lynch-Quarterback-Memphis

The Philadelphia Eagles could go with running back Ezekiel Elliot here, but new head coach Doug Pederson needs a young quarterback to develop.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Jack Conklin-Offensive Tackle-Michigan State

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are entrusting quarterback Jameis Winston to be their franchise player, and thus they must do everything in their power to put a solid team around him.

Shaq Lawson

10. New York Giants-Shaq Lawson-Defensive End-Clemson

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has been busy this off-season in solidifying his defense, and he’ll find himself another quality edge rusher here in Shaq Lawson.

11. Chicago Bears-Taylor Decker-Offensive Tackle-Ohio State

The Chicago Bears are committed to quarterback Jay Cutler who loves to throw the deep ball which means that he needs a solid offensive line in front of him.

12. New Orleans Saints-Vernon Hargreaves III-Cornerback-Florida

The New Orleans Saints could go in several directions with this pick, but they need help in the secondary which was torched last season.

13. Miami Dolphins-Darron Lee-Outside Linebacker-Ohio State

Here the Miami Dolphins will get a player that could be an impact player from his first day with the team.

14. Oakland Raiders-Reggie Ragland-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

In drafting Reggie Ragland, the Oakland Raiders could possess one of the best linebacking cores in the National Football League this season.

Leonard Floyd

15. Tennessee Titans-Leonard Floyd-Outside Linebacker-Georgia

The Tennessee Titans have switched the 3-4 defensive scheme, and they are still searching for a dominant edge rusher.

16. Detroit Lions-Laquon Treadwell-Wide Reciever-Ole Miss

The Detroit Lions needs help on their offensive line, but with the retirement of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, they also need a play maker that can stretch the field.

17. Atlanta Falcons-A’Shawn Robinson-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

The Atlanta Falcons continue to beef up the defensive line here.

18. Indianapolis Colts-Ezekiel Elliot-Running Back-Ohio State

If Ezekiel Elliot falls this far, the Indianapolis Colts would have their best running back since Edgerrin James.

19. Buffalo Bills-Noah Spence-Defensive End-Eastern Kentucky

This pick has Rex Ryan written all over it as Noah Spence is his kind of football player.

20. New York Jets-Eli Apple-Cornerback-Ohio State

The New York Jets could be tempted to take a quarterback here, but they also need help in their secondary.

Mackensie Alexander

21. Washington Redskins-Mackensie Alexander-Cornerback-Clemson

The Washington Redskins could be tempted to select a wide receiver here, but the talent of Mackensie Alexander is too good to pass up on.

22. Houston Texans-DeForest Buckner-Defensive End-Oregon

The defensive line of the Houston Texans is not a weakness, but DeForest Buckner will eat up double teams which will help players such as defensive end J.J. Watt.

23. Minnesota Vikings-Will Fuller-Wide Receiver-Notre Dame

Speed kills in the National Football League, and the speed of wide receiver Will Fuller will test the arm strength of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

24. Cincinnati Bengals-Jason Spriggs-Offensive Tackle-Indiana

In a division that features the quality defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals must upgrade their offensive line.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers-William Jackson III-Cornerback-Houston

After recently releasing cornerback Cortez Allen, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to get their hands on another cornerback.

26. Seattle Seahawks-Sheldon Rankins-Defensive Tackle-Clemson

The off-season hasn’t been good to the Seattle Seahawks who have lost quality players in the trenches on both sides of the football. And for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, it’s time for him to start restocking some athletes.

Jarran Reed

27. Green Bay Packers-Jarran Reed-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

With the sudden retirement of nose tackle B.J. Raji, this is a no-brainer pick here for the Green Bay Packers.

28. Kansas City Chiefs-Corey Coleman-Wide Receiver-Baylor

It was rather obvious that the Kansas City Chiefs lacked speed at the wide receiver position last year, and the addition of Corey Coleman would be a huge upgrade for them.

29. Arizona Cardinals-Vernon Butler-Defensive Tackle-Louisiana Tech

The NFC West might be the most physical division in the National Football League, and the Arizona Cardinals need to keep up by adding another “big ugly”.

30. Carolina Panthers-Germain Ifedi-Offensive Tackle-Texas A&M

The Carolina Panthers could decide to draft another wide receiver here, but they also need to protect quarterback Cam Newton.

Connor Cook

31. Denver Broncos-Connor Cook-Quarterback-Michigan State

The Denver Broncos could be tempted to move up and select a quarterback, or they could wait patiently and select a signal caller without having to part with draft picks.

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Rolling The Dice

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The Los Angeles Rams have been one of the top stories during this off-season in the National Football League. After 21 years of playing in St. Louis, Missouri, Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to move the franchise back to Los Angeles which had been the team’s home from 1946-1994. And if that wasn’t enough for the Rams, they pulled off a shocker last week when they decided to push all of their chips to the middle of the table for the NFL Draft next week. Originally the Rams owned the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft, but they decided to make a trade with the Tennessee Titans in order to obtain the first overall pick of the draft. The Rams will receive Tennessee’s first, fourth, and round choices next week, while Los Angeles will be parting with their first-round pick, a pair of selections in the second round, and a third-round pick this year, along with their first and third-round selections for next year which puts immense pressure on the Rams to wins right now.

Jeff Fisher, Les Snead

Rams general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher are each entering the final year of their respective contracts, and they are working for an owner in Kroenke who doesn’t have a stellar reputation as far as compensating his executives. And being that the Rams are back in Los Angeles, they will once again be under the microscope as they’ll be playing in the second largest media market in the United States.

The reason why the Rams moved up in the National Football League Draft is due to their desperation to find a franchise quarterback. In four years under Fisher, the Rams have never had a quarterback whom they could refer to as a franchise player. And it is no surprise that over that stretch the Rams have failed to produce a winning record. Overall the Rams have not had a winning record since 2003 while they’ve failed to reach the postseason since 2004 which is the fourth longest active streak in the NFL.

Jared Goff

Now with the first overall pick, the Rams have their sights set on either California Bears quarterback Jared Goff or North Dakota State Bison quarterback Carson Wentz. Goff checks in at 6’4″, while Wentz is 6’5″. Both players have the prototypical size to play quarterback in the National Football League, but is either player worthy of being the first overall pick next week?

Goff played in a pass-happy offensive system of head football coach Sonny Dykes at California which doesn’t translate to the pro-style offense that he’ll need to adjust to in the National Football League. Wentz is heading to the NFL after spending his collegiate career at a Division-II school and you have to wonder if the lack of competition will hinder him as he is ascending to a professional career?

With more than a week to go before the National Football League Draft, the Rams are still unsure as to whether it will be Goff or Wentz whom they’ll pick, but in actuality, Los Angeles could have stuck with the 15th overall selection and gotten a solid quarterback there. However the Rams allowed themselves to be controlled by the elephant in the room which is fear.

The Cleveland Browns own the second overall pick in the draft, and even though that they signed quarterback Robert Griffin III this off-season, it is not out of the realm of possibilities to see them still select a signal caller next week. The Dallas Cowboys own the fourth overall pick and with an aging and injury prone Tony Romo playing quarterback for them, there is a chance that Dallas will pick a quarterback. After making a trade with the Miami Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles now own the eighth overall selection. And with the Eagles hiring Doug Pederson as their new head coach, there is a pretty good possibility that they’ll be looking for a signal caller as well.

The Titans came into the process owning the first overall pick which has been historically reserved for selecting a quarterback. But that wasn’t going to be the case for Tennessee as they drafted their cornerstone in quarterback Marcus Mariota last year which meant that they held all of the cards. And it is that fear of the Browns, Cowboys, Eagles, or another team moving up to make a run on the quarterback position which has forced the Rams hand in this draft process.

Snead and Fisher are desperate to keep their respective jobs which also gives them the chance to bask in the Southern California sunshine which means that you can expect the young quarterback that they select to be under center for them in Week 1 of the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers which will only add to the pressure as it could make or break the youngster.

Carson Wentz

But what Goff and Wentz represent are the new National Football League where teams are more desperate than ever for find a quarterback whom they can deem as their franchise guy. This isn’t a situation where the Denver Broncos pulled off the trade of the century to acquire the draft rights to quarterback John Elway from the Baltimore Colts in 1983, or when the New York Giants sold the farm in 2004 to acquire a disgruntled quarterback in Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers, as to me neither Wentz or Goff represent a franchise-caliber quarterback. What it does represent is the new NFL which is similar to an SAT exam which comes down to choosing the best option available. Since 2010, 16 quarterbacks have been been selected in the first round of the draft. Of those 16 quarterbacks, only eight of them are still with their original team, while two in Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder are out of the league altogether which doesn’t bode well for either Wentz or Goff who don’t have the pedigree of being franchise quarterbacks.

The Rams have rolled the dice in moving up in the National Football League Draft which has opened to door for the Titans, who if they hit this draft process with precision over the next two years could build a solid team around their franchise quarterback in Mariota which could make the decision by Los Angeles to pull the trigger on this move that much more questionable. And without possessing a first round pick in next year’s draft process, the pressure will be on the Rams next Thursday as they look to avoid having their new stint in Southern California begin like their previous one did which was with a whimper.

 

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2016 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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1. Tennessee Titans-Laremy Tunsil-Offensive Tackle-Ole Miss

The Titans appear to have their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota and they need to protect his blindside.

Jared Goff

2. Cleveland Browns-Jared Goff-Quarterback-California

It wouldn’t be a National Football League season without the Cleveland Browns starting over with a new general manager, head coach, and of course, a quarterback.

3. San Diego Chargers-Ronnie Stanley-Offensive Tackle-Notre Dame

The Chargers still appear to be committed to Philip Rivers as their starting quarterback which means that they may want to protect him.

4. Dallas Cowboys-A’Shawn Robinson-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

If not A’Shawn Robinson, the Cowboys could go with Joey Bosa here, but the bottom line is that they need help on their defensive line.

Jalen Ramsey

5. Jacksonville Jaguars-Jalen Ramsey-Cornerback-Florida State

It’s been awhile since the Jaguars have had themselves a shutdown corner.

6. Baltimore Ravens-Laquon Treadwell-Wide Recieiver-Ole Miss

The Ravens did use a first-round pick last year on a wide receiver in Breshad Perriman, but Laquon Treadwell is too good to pass on.

7. San Francisco 49ers-Myles Jack-Outside Linebacker-UCLA

The 49ers could go in several directions with this pick, but new head coach Chip Kelly covets athletic players.

8. Miami Dolphins-Vernon Hargraves-Cornerback-Florida

With wide receivers such as Sammy Watkins, Brandon Marshall, and Julian Edelman all calling the AFC East home, the Dolphins must solidify their secondary.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Taylor Decker-Offensive Tackle-Ohio State

The Buccaneers are looking to build around their young quarterback in Jameis Winston which means that is time for them to work on the offensive line in Tampa.

Joey Bosa

10. New York Giants-Joey Bosa-Defensive End-Ohio State

If Joey Bosa falls this far, the Giants won’t pass him up as they are desperate for pass rushers.

11. Chicago Bears-Andrew Billings-Defensive Tackle-Baylor

Bears head coach John Fox is looking to make his team tougher in the trenches.

Shaq Lawson

12. New Orleans Saints-Shaq Lawson-Defensive End-Clemson

The only way for the Saints to have a shot in the NFC South is to get more pressure from their defensive line.

13. Philadelphia Eagles-Paxton Lynch-Quarterback-Memphis

With the Chip Kelly experiment over in Philadelphia, new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is looking to get back to the basics which includes him finding a franchise quarterback that he can develop.

14. Oakland Raiders-Jack Conklin-Offensive Tackle-Michigan State

Don’t look now, but the Raiders are picking later than they normally would while also drafting talent.

15. Los Angeles Rams-Carson Wentz-Quarterback-North Dakota State

The Rams will have a new city to play in for 2016; so why not get a young quarterback that can lead them into the future on the field?

Jonathan Bullard

16. Detroit Lions-Jonathan Bullard-Defensive End-Florida

In a division with Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jay Cutler, the Lions cannot have enough pass rushers.

17. Atlanta Falcons-DeForest Buckner-Defensive End-Oregon

Last year it was Vic Beasley, and this time DeForest Buckner could be the guy that helps the Falcons to improve their front seven in 2016.

18. Indianapolis Colts-Shon Coleman-Offensive Tackle-Auburn

2015 was a nightmare for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as he was injured which means that it is time to beef up the protection in front of him.

19. Buffalo Bills-Mackensie Alexander-Cornerback-Clemson

Rex Ryan is searching for the next Darrelle Revis, and he’ll take a chance on Mackensie Alexander.

20. New York Jets-Leonard Floyd-Outisde Linebacker-Georgia

The Jets have a ton of free agents and they need to get younger and more athletic at linebacker.

21. Washington Redskins-Eli Apple-Cornerback-Ohio State

If the playoffs showed us anything, it is that the Redskins need help in their secondary.

Connor Cook

22. Houston Texans-Connor Cook-Quarterback-Michigan State

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t appear to be committed long term to Brian Hoyer at quarterback which means that Connor Cook could sneak in the back door.

23. Minnesota Vikings- Darron Lee-Outside Linebacker-Ohio State

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer loves defense and he finds another play maker here.

Robert Nkemdiche

24. Cincinnati Bengals-Robert Nkemdiche-Defensive Tackle-Ole Miss

If Robert Nkemdiche falls to the Bengals here, he might be the steal of the first round.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers-Germain Ifedi-Offensive Tackle-Texas A&M

With a veteran quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers must protect him.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Emmanuel Ogbah-Defensive End-Oklahoma State

The rich get richer as the Seahawks will get another freak of nature on the defensive side of the football.

27. Green Bay Packers-Reggie Ragland-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

The Packers need an upgrade at the inside linebacker position in order to allow Clay Matthews to be utilized more at outside linebacker.

28. Kansas City Chiefs-Jason Spriggs-Offensive Tackle-Indiana

The Chiefs are expected to be hit hard in free agency; especially on their offensive line.

29. Arizona Cardinals-Jarran Reed-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians loves physical play makers and he gets one here late in the first round.

Ezekiel Elliot

30. Carolina Panthers-Ezekiel Elliot-Running Back-Ohio State

The Panthers need to upgrade the passing game, but Ezekiel Elliot is too talented to pass up.

31. Denver Broncos-Derrick Henry-Running Back-Alabama

The Broncos love to run the football with their zone-blocking scheme, but when Derrick Henry gets a head of steam, look out.

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2015 Pac-12 Football Projections

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North

Stanford Cardinal 11-2 (8-2)

David Shaw

There wasn’t that much fan fare when David Shaw was named as the head football coach of the Stanford Cardinal in 2011, but he is very quickly moving up the ranks of all-time victories for the program. In four seasons at Stanford, Shaw is 42-12 with a pair of Rose Bowl appearances. And only Pop Warner, John Ralston, and Tyrone Willingham have won more games at Stanford than Shaw. After a five loss season in 2014, Shaw’s Cardinal could be ready to once again become one of the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference.

Stanford could have a big year in 2015, if senior quarterback Kevin Hogan can have a strong campaign. By some people, Hogan has been labeled as a “game manager”, but he has all of the talent to be in the running to be named as the Pac-12’s Player of the Year. Led by senior offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, Hogan will be protected by a massive offensive line that has been recently sending its fair share of players to the National Football League.

The Cardinal only return four starters from a defense that was ranked third nationally, but under defensive coordinator Lance Anderson you can expect them to once again be stingy.

The schedule for the Cardinal won’t be an easy one, but outside of traveling to meet the USC Trojans in Los Angeles, Stanford will have all of their tough Pac-12 foes coming to Palo Alto this year as they look to win the conference crown.

Oregon Ducks 8-4 (6-3)

The past few seasons have seen the Oregon Ducks become the class of the Pac-12 Conference as they’ve won the conference in four out of the last five years. But will 2015 be the year where the Ducks take a step backwards?

The Ducks must find a way to replace quarterback Marcus Mariota who was under center for them the past three years and in the process, he re-wrote the school’s record book for passing. Now junior quarterback Jeff Lockie will have his chance to run the spread offense in Eugene for Oregon head football coach Mark Helfrich. And led by sophomore running back Royce Freeman and senior wide receiver Byron Marshall, the Ducks return a ton of speed offensively which is their bread and butter.

The Ducks do return six defensive starters in 2015. But defense has never been Oregon’s calling card as they were 89th in the nation last season in total defense and must find a way to step it up in a much improved Pac-12 Conference.

The Ducks will have a huge test in their second game of the season when they travel to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the Michigan State Spartans. But Oregon’s Pac-12 fate will be decided in a stretch that begins in mid-October when they’ll begin a four-game stretch that will see them on the road for three games against the Washington Huskies, Arizona State Sun Devils, and Stanford Cardinal.

Washington Huskies 7-5 (5-4)

Chris Peterson

2015 will be the second year for the Washington Huskies under head football coach Chris Peterson. Peterson had a respectable first year in Seattle as the Huskies went 8-6 and they finished in third place in the Pac-12 North. But now with all of the renovations that Husky Stadium has undergone, it will be interesting to see if Washington will have what it takes in 2015 to win the Pac-12 North.

Cyler Miles was the Huskies leading passer in 2014, but he has decided to leave the team for personal issues which leaves a huge void for Peterson on offense as Washington hopes to not get lost in the shuffle in the Pac-12 North.

The Huskies will begin the 2015 college football season against Peterson’s old team in the Boise State Broncos before they embark on a tough Pac-12 Conference schedule that includes games against the USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, and Arizona State Sun Devils along with home contests against the Oregon Ducks, Arizona Wildcats, and Utah Utes.

California Golden Bears 5-7 (3-6)

From 2012-2013, the California Golden Bears were a putrid 4-20. 2013 was also the first season for the Golden Bears with Sonny Dykes as their head football coach. In 2013 under Dykes, the Bears were just 1-11 while they improved last season, but their 5-7 mark wasn’t good enough to make them bowl eligible. Dykes possesses one of the brightest minds in college football as far as developing passing offenses which was evident being that Cal was sixth in the nation last season in passing. But will passing along be enough to propel the Golden Bears to their first winning season since 2011?

Jared Goff

Junior quarterback Jared Goff is entering his third season as the Bears starting quarterback and in each year at Berkley he has thrown for at least 3,500 yards. Running back Daniel Lasco did gain 1,115 yards on the ground last season and now as a senior, he will look to get his numbers closer to the 1,500 mark.

But as good as California’s offense was in 2014, they were 124th in total defense and as Art Kaufman enters his second year as the Golden Bears defensive coordinator, those numbers must improve drastically if the Cal will be a player in the Pac-12 North.

With a home game against the San Diego State Aztecs and a road affair with the Texas Longhorns, the non-conference part of Cal’s schedule wont be easy which will get them prepared for a Pac-12 Conference schedule that includes road games against the Washington Huskies, Utah Utes, UCLA Bruins, Oregon Ducks, and Stanford Cardinal as it won’t be a walk in the park for the Bears to become bowl eligible in 2015.

Washington State Cougars 3-9 (1-8)

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Mike Leach

2014 marked the third season for the Washington State Cougars under head football Mike Leach. And where the Cougars were expected to take that next step in the Pac-12, they took a giant turn backwards. The Cougars went bowling in 2013, but they suffered through a 3-9 season in 2014.

Luke Falk saw significant time at quarterback as a freshman and with Connor Halliday having graduated, it should be Falk’s job to lose this season. Washington State also lost their top two wide receivers from last season, but Leach’s pass happy offense doesn’t concentrate solely on one wide receiver as everyone gets an opportunity to catch the football.

However,unless the Cougars find a way to run the football and improve defensively as they were ranked 99th in total defense in 2014, they will spend this fall being the whipping boys of the Pac-12 North.

Oregon State Beavers 2-10 (0-9)

In 14 seasons as the head football coach of the Oregon State Beavers, Mike Riley was 93-80 as he won at a school that wasn’t as easy to achieve it. Riley decided to leave Oregon State to become the head football coach at the University of Nebraska, but the Beavers were able to lure Gary Anderson away from the Wisconsin Badgers who is now at his third different head coaching position since 2012; however he appears to be ready to hang around Corvallis as he wants to build a contender in the Pac-12. Anderson has won at every step along his coaching journey which has included stops at Utah State and Wisconsin. Winning won’t come immediately for Anderson at Oregon State, but he’ll get them to respectability soon.

South

USC Trojans 10-3 (8-2)

The NCAA sanctions are behind the USC Trojans and thus a sleeping giant is ready to arise in the Pac-12 Conference. Since the Pac-12 expanded to 12 schools in 2011, the Trojans have taken a back seat in the Pac-12 South, but that could be ready to change in 2015.

Steve Sarkisian is in his second year as the head football coach of USC and he is ready to lead the Men of Troy back into the national spotlight. The Trojans went 9-4 last year with three of those losses coming by a combined 13 points.

Quarterback Cody Kessler is back for his senior season as he has become the big man on campus in Los Angeles. Kessler threw 39 touchdown passes last year to only 5 interceptions and when this season concludes, we could be talking about him as far as being the Pac-12 Conference’s Player of the Year along with winning the Heisman Trophy.

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Juju Smith

With wide receiver Nelson Agholor moving on to the National Football League, sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith is ready to emerge as the next good wide receiver at Southern Cal. The Trojans get their entire starting offensive line from 2014 back which will look to protect Kessler while also opening holes for junior running back Justin Davis.

Defensively the Trojans were ranked 78th nationally last season, but there are nine starters returning as defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will look to get the most of this unit in his second year in Los Angeles.

The Pac-12 South will be extremely tough this season, but Sarkisian has a team that is capable of winning it for the first time.

Arizona State Sun Devils 8-4 (6-3)

In three years under head football coach Todd Graham, the Arizona State Sun Devils have been one of the top teams in the Pac-12 South. And in a conference that has some of the best offenses in the nation, Arizona State is more than able to hold their own.

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Mike Bercovici

Last season an injury to quarterback Taylor Kelly allowed Mike Bercovici to gain some experience under center in Graham’s offense. Bercovici threw 12 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Now as a senior, Bercovici will be running the show in Tempe and he won’t be looking over his shoulder. Senior running back D.J. Foster will be operating behind an offensive line that has three returning starters from last season as he hopes to have his second consecutive year in which he gains at least 1,000 yards on the ground.

In Arizona State’s three losses in 2014, the gave up a combined 139 points as they had the 83rd ranked defense in the nation. However the Sun Devils do return nine staters on the defensive side of the football as third-year defensive coordinator Chris Ball will look to improve his unit.

In consecutive weeks, Arizona State will find themselves clashing with the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins and those two contests will go a very long way in deciding the winner of the Pac-12 South in 2015.

Arizona Wildcats 8-4 (5-4)

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Rich Rodriguez

There is excitement once again in the desert for Arizona Wildcats football. Under head football coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats are coming off of their first 10-win season since 1998 and they are thinking about winning the Pac-12 Conference Title in Tuscon. Rodriguez has been at Arizona for three years and he is the first head football coach in school history to lead the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first three years there. The Wildcats are coming off of a tough loss in the Fiesta Bowl to the Boise State Broncos, but Rodriguez does have an offense in 2015 that is capable of helping Arizona contend for the Pac-12 Title.

Quarterback Anu Soloman established himself as a play maker in Rodriguez’s spread offense last season as a freshman. Solomon passed for 3,793 yards and it is scary that he can get better. Solomon wasn’t the only freshman that did big things for Arizona as running back Nick Wilson ran for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns in and he could be in the running to be a First-team All Pac-12 performer as a sophomore. Led by junior wide receiver Cayleb Jones, Arizona returns their top four wide receivers from last season and their familiarity with Solomon could allow them to do some big things this season.

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Scooby Wright

Last year as a sophomore, linebacker Scooby Wright was all over the football field and he also wreaked terror on opposing quarterbacks as he amassed 14 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. Wright will begin this season as the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and his presence should free up some of his defensive teammates.

Arizona’s final three games of the regular season will determine their fate as far as winning the Pac-12 South being that they have a home game against the Utah Utes that will be sandwiched between road affairs with the USC Trojans and their rivals from Tempe in the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Utah Utes 8-4 (5-4)

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Kyle Whittingham

After two consecutive losing seasons the Utah Utes rebounded in 2014 to go 9-4 and finish ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since joining the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. Under head football coach Kyle Whittingham, Utah’s roster may not jump out at the average or novice college football fan being that the majority of their players were overlooked by bigger schools when they came out of high school, but each of their opponents knows that they will have to pack a lunch if they are going to emerge victorious.

Wittingham asks senior quarterback Travis Wilson to not be a hero and instead simply be a game manager for his offense. Senior running back Devontae Booker is a durable stud coming out of the backfield for Utah and if he once again flirts with 300 carries this season, it should symbolize another good year for the Utes. Led by senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Poutasi, Booker will be running behind an offensive line that returns four starters and they will be looking to impose their will on opponents in 2015.

The Utes return eight starters from a defense that was able to tally 55 sacks last season. And even without defensive end Nate Orchard who is now in the National Football League, Utah will still be able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Utah will have their work cut out as far as winning the Pac-12 in 2015. The Utes have road games against the Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, and Arizona Wildcats along with home affairs against the Arizona State Sun Devils and UCLA Bruins.

UCLA Bruins 8-4 (5-4)

It’s hard to believe that the UCLA Bruins have not won the Pac-10/12 Championship since 1998, but that is the case. Under head football coach Jim Mora, the Bruins have re-emerged as of the best teams in the Pac-12 and they feel that they are ready to win the conference title in 2015, but it won’t be easy as the Pac-12 South is as tough as it has ever been.

The Bruins will have to find a way to replace quarterback Brett Hundley who has meant so much to their offense over the past few seasons. Jerry Neuheisel is the son of former UCLA quarterback and head football coach Rick Neuheisel and he is the front runner to be the next signal caller for the Bruins.

The Bruins will have a ton of talent around Neuheisel which will be led by running back Paul Perkins who is the workhorse back that Mora covets. The Bruins could have some All-Pac-12 performers on their offensive line which is led by center Jake Brendel.

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Myles Jack

The Bruins have outside linebacker Myles Jack who is becoming a very special player on that side of the football and he will anchor the Bruins defensively in 2015.

UCLA’s 2015 schedule will be a tough one as it includes road games with the Arizona Wildcats, Stanford Cardinal, Utah Utes, and USC Trojans.

Colorado Buffaloes 4-9 (0-9)

http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/30/647/full/5349.pngIt’s hard to believe, but at one point the Colorado Buffaloes were a dominant college football program; however that has not followed them to the Pac-12 Conference which they have called home since 2011. The Buffaloes have not had a winning season since 2005 and there doesn’t seem to be that much relief in sight for them.

Mike MacIntyre is set to embark on his third season as Colorado’s head football coach and he is just looking to get some breaks for his team. The Buffs do have junior quarterback Sefo Liufau who will look to hook up with his favorite target in senior wide receiver Nelson Spruce, but most of their stats came as Colorado had to pass as they were playing catch up due to the fact that lost six games in 2014 by 14 points or more.

The Buffaloes are still a ways away from competing in the Pac-12 South and this year’s schedule that features home games against the Oregon Ducks, Arizona Wildcats, and USC Trojans won’t make it any easier.

Pac-12 Championship Game: Stanford vs. USC

Conference Champion: USC

Sources: Nationalchamps.net, Cfbstats.com, Sports-reference.com

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